Lionfish destroy Florida's native fish
When six exotic lionfish escaped into Biscayne Bay after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, no one thought that six would make too much difference to the ecosystem. However, sixteen years later, there are now thousands of lionfish in the Bay, causing what could be a catastrophic marine invasion.
Lionfish are hunters and killers, and are highly poisonous. They are normally found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are the first non-native fish to be found in the Atlantic Ocean, where it is eating the native fish faster than they can breed to make up the numbers.
Their carnivorous activity could have a severe, un-thought of impact.
With its needle-sharp spines and red and white stripes, the lionfish's hunting prowess is enhanced by the fact that other fish find them so baffling. “They kind of resemble a big clump of seaweed. Native fish don't see them as predators, or even as other fish,” said Mark Hixon, a coral reef ecology expert at Oregon State University. “That allows them to approach other fish and just slurp them up.”
The Hurricane Andrew Six are believed to be among several of the lionfish army's founding fathers. Private aquarium owners may have also dumped lionfish in the sea over the years, compounding their spread along the eastern seaboard and into the Caribbean. Studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that numbers in some areas have risen from 22 per hectare (12,000 sq yards) in 2004 to 200 per hectare in 2008.
The concern is that the lionfish are not only depleting commercial fisheries but also destroying herbivorous species that are important in keeping coral reefs clean and free of seaweed.
Scientists are calling this potentially 'the most devastating marine invasion in history'.
Lionfish are also poisonous to human beings as their sting is so severe. Some of the scientists are looking at how to educate fishermen to catch them and restaurants to serve them as that could be a way to keep the numbers down.
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San Francisco, California, United States